- Today Jamaica joins with the rest of the world in observing International Human Rights Day which is themed ‘Stand up for someone’s rights today”.
- Jamaica was the country that proposed that the United Nations observe 1968 as a year of International Human Rights. That proved to be the watershed year in the advance of the global agenda and global awareness of human rights.
- We must welcome the help of others at home and abroad as we move to usher in a new era in human rights in Jamaica.
My fellow Jamaicans:
Today Jamaica joins with the rest of the world in observing International Human Rights Day which is themed ‘Stand up for someone’s rights today”.
This theme must resonate in the hearts and minds of Jamaicans everywhere who know of our proud legacy in advancing the international agenda for human rights.
Lest we forget, Jamaica was the first country to have declared an embargo against the apartheid regime in South Africa.
Jamaica was the country that proposed that the United Nations observe 1968 as a year of International Human Rights. That proved to be the watershed year in the advance of the global agenda and global awareness of human rights.
Jamaica has ratified several of the major international human rights conventions and covenants, some of which seeks to codify the rights of special groups such as children, women and persons living with a disability.
We have established institutions such as the Office of the Public Defender, the Office of Children’s Advocate and more recently the Independent Commission of Investigations (INDECOM).
Jamaica has done outstandingly well in areas such as the right to free speech, the right to associate, the right to worship, freedom of movement and so on.
We are living in times that urge us to stand taller and do better in the protection of the human rights of our citizens.
We still have an unfinished agenda in human rights which require bold and inspiring leadership to help us reclaim our legacy as a human rights beacon.
This Government of which I am a part remains committed and resolute in honouring the promises of successive governments in the Conventions, Covenants and Treaties that we have signed and ratified.
We will establish the long promised National Human Rights Institute beginning in the first quarter of next year, which, though not a panacea will be a guiding hand in shaping the forward agenda for human rights .
The Ministry of Justice will pursue an aggressive public awareness campaign to educate Jamaicans about their rights and to increase access to our legislation.
We have the support of our international partners and this push will be executed as an important aspect of the justice reform agenda.
We have just received 24M euros from the European Union to:
• Improve access of vulnerable and special groups to the criminal justice system;
• Adv nce the implementation of the Child Diversion programme to stop making criminals of our children;
• Improve the treatment of children who are in conflict with the law; and,
• To mainstream restorative practices into the criminal justice system, among other things.
Every Jamaican and all state institutions must do their part in honouring the compact that Jamaica has made to respect the fundamental rights of our citizens.
The burden of responsibility rests on the Government to ensure that there exist a culture of best practice in protecting and safeguarding the rights of Jamaicans and especially their right to life.
The Government also has an obligation to ensure that the legislative, policy and institutional capacity exist for effective sanctions against violations of human rights.
But most important of all, we must abandon our seemingly ready recourse to retribution, brutality and cruelty, especially in tough times.
We must change the way we raise our children, treat our boys in the school environment, our policing practice and in how we treat those who are incarcerated. We can and must do better than we are doing.
As we pause for reflection today, let us not lose sight of how we stood up for the rights of others in the international community when things were tough. Jamaica led from the front as true soldiers of human rights.
But let us now turn our gaze inward and re-double our effort in standing up for the rights of our people right here in Jamaica land we love. The Government must lead from the front.
We must welcome the help of others at home and abroad as we move to usher in a new era in human rights in Jamaica.